I like winter as much as the next person (which is not all that much), but all of the things I love about winter like snow tubing, sledding and building snowmen, have been taken away from us by these frigid temperatures. We're not a family that likes to stay in the house all the time, so we've been working to find fun things to do while still staying warm. I've compiled some of our favorites to share with you here.
Visit a Museum
After taking a long road trip through more than a dozen states this summer, I can say with confidence that Pittsburgh has one of the best collections of family-friendly museums in the country. The Pittsburgh Children's Museum in the North Side, is perfect for families with young children. If you haven't been in a while (or never), now is the perfect time to rediscover the magic. From art to cars to water, there's enough here to keep the kiddos entertained for at least a day.
The Carnegie Science Center is one of our personal favorites. We've been taking the kids since they were three or four. Even if kids are too young to understand the science, they will still enjoy the plethora of hands-on activities. As they age, they will grow into the understanding of all of those "toys". It's fun for the whole family.
If you've got kids that are interested in history or dinosaurs, The Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History really give visitors the most bang for their buck. One admission fee gets you into both museums. The Natural History Museum is famous for its awe-inspiring dinosaur exhibits as well as other favorites like gem and polar worlds. While you're there, don't be afraid to take your kids to the Museum of Art. I was terrified my kids would touch something and avoided the museum for years. When we did finally attempt it this year we were all pleasantly surprised. They give the kids art activities and the whole family can listen to audio guides to learn more about the paintings. It was really the highlight of our day.
Children's Museum Admission is $14 for adults and $13 for kids
Carnegie Science Center Admission is $19 for adults and $12 for kids
Carnegie Museums of Art & Natural History Admission is $18 for adults and $12 for kids
Feed the Birds
Winter is a great time to pay a visit to the penguins at the National Aviary. Tucked away almost too quietly on the North Side, the Aviary underwent a multi-million dollar expansion just a couple of years ago. Whether you're interested in penguins, tropical birds or birds of prey, they have it all. We especially enjoy the bird shows in the new FliteZone theater and the daily bird feedings. The Aviary is open daily 10-5.
National Aviary Admission is $14 for adults and $12 for kids
Take a Bike Ride
If your kids are like mine, they spend countless hours in the summer riding their bikes. They are going through bike-riding withdrawal over the winter months. Luckily for us, if we're feeling a little adventurous, we can rectify that. Pittsburgh's' very first indoor bicycle skate park, The Wheel Mill, opened last year. The Wheel Mill, located just off of Washington Boulevard in Homewood, offers ramps of all shapes and sizes for every level rider. Kids and adults can rent bikes or just bring their own bikes and pay a fee to ride for the day. Sounds like fun!
Weekend passes for all-day riding are $26 for adults and $17-22 (depending on age) for kids. bike rentals extra. Weekday pricing is lower.
Go for a Swim
Obviously, the first thing that comes to mind when we think of getting away from the cold is hopping on a plane to somewhere closer to the equator. Unfortunately that's not usually possible, so we'll have to make due here in the Burgh. Nothing feels more like summer than putting on my itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini (ok, who are we kidding, it's more like a respectable tankini with full skirt). There are actually several options available to the public to take a dip in a warm pool during the winter months without having a gym membership.
The Upper St. Clair Athletic Club has a wonderful indoor pool, complete with lazy river and play structure. It's open to the public with a daily entry fee of $12.
The Carnegie Athletic Club of Homestead has an indoor pool and offers day passes for just $10 for an individual or $15 for a family of 4 for the day.
The Kingsley Assocation on Frankstown Avenue opens its pool to the public every day but Sunday for a daily entry fee of just $5.
Olympic Swim and Health Club, located 20 minutes east of the city, offers public passes for its indoor pool for a $5 guest fee
The historic Oliver Bath House is the best bargain in town, offering a daily swim pass for just $3 for kids and $4 for adults. The Bath House is located in the South Side of Pittsburgh.
Play with Toys
If you're in the mood for a little drive and want to see something really cool, head on up to Butler to visit Playthings, Etc. Billed by locals as the “coolest toy store in the world”, this Butler, PA toy store is shaped like a stealth bomber which just makes you want to go in and explore. Playthings has an inventory of over 3,000 toys ranging from RC cars to toddler toys. Employees will often give demonstrations of fun toys like pogo sticks and rocket ships. Even if you just go look and play with the samples, it's a fun road trip. Playthings, Etc. is located at 2483 William Flinn Hwy, Butler, PA 16001. They are open from 10-8 on Saturday. Closed Sunday
E2 Toys2Try, located in Bridgeville, is another fun toy store/playplace for the younger set. You can shop for unique and specialty toys while enjoying complimentary coffee, tea and wifi while the kids play in the indoor/outdoor playground. They are open 10-5 Tuesday-Thursday and 10-4 on Saturdays (call ahead to check playground hours). The playground cost $8 for the first child and $6 for additional children.
Get Your Game On
The Robert Morris University Island Sports Center is a 32 acre state of the art sports and recreation center on Neville Island. With indoor ice skating and golf dome, there's something for the whole family. When the weather breaks, families can take the fun outside for mini golf.
Ice skating is also available at several local Bladerunners locations (Bethel Park, Harmarville and Warrendale). All locations have a public skate session at least twice a week. Public skate pricing is generaly $6 for adults and $5 for kids (skate rental is an additional $3)
You can also find a couple of indoor glow in the dark mini golf courses in the region. The Pittsburgh Mills mall is home to Shot in the Dark Indoor Mini Golf. It's also worth a trip out to Monroeville to visit Monster Mini Golf. Shot in the Dark will cost you $7 for adults and $6 or 5 for kids (depending on age). A round of 18 holes at Monster Mini Golf is $9 for adults and $8 for kids.
If you're more the tennis type, check out the Citiparks Mellon Tennis Center on 5th Avenue. The bubble allows the public to book court time, but also offer drop in lessons for kids and adults. It's a great way to spend a Saturday morning.
Kids 1-hour lessons are $10, adults are $12.
Climb a Wall
What better way to stop climbing the walls than to start climbing walls!? The Climbing Wall, located on Penn Avenue, offers 14,000 square feet of rock climbing for the whole family (age 6 and up).
The Climbing Wall is open on the weekends from 10-6 (weekdays until as late as 11). Day passes cost $12 for adults and $10 for kids
Climb North is located inside Jewarts Gymnastics in the North Hills by North Park. Dubbed the "little wall", Climb North offers 5,000 square feet of climbing space.
Climb North is open on the Saturdays from 11-5 and Sundays from 11-4 . A day pass cost $15 for adults and $10 for kids.
Roll with the Punches
When is the last time you went roller skating? Yea, I don't remember either. But I know I skated with a cute boy to the couples skate and fell on my butt clapping too excitedly during one special song..."Private Eyes (clap) are Watching You (clap clap)"
Romp-n-Roll is a fun throwback roller rink in Gibsonia that offers both traditional and inline skate rental. They offer public sessions every weekend and it's great fun for the whole family. The DJ is especially fun (and looks like he's straight out of 1954). They even host Roller Derby matches there each month.
Public Skate admission is $6 plus skate rental.
Neville Roller Drome is another classic roller rink offering public sessions including Saturday and Sunday family skate sessions from 2-5 p.m. for just $5.50 plus $3 skate rental.
Bowl 'em Over
Everyone loves to bowl, don't they? It's a great indoor winter activity for the entire family. There are many bowling alleys in the Pittsburgh region. I'll share a few with you. Fun Fest in Harmar is your standard bowling alley/arcade/laser tag fun center that is a huge hit with the kids. What we like about it is the availability of coupons. Never go to Fun Fest without a coupon! They are always available on their website. They have daily specials that often include unlimited bowling and laser tag for 2 hours for $10 (Monday evenings) or family specials like 2 hours of bowling, shoes, pizza and pop for 6 people for $40. (Mon-Thurs).
Other bowling lanes in Pittsburgh include Arsenal Lanes in Lawrenceville, Forward Lanes in Squirrel Hill, Pines Plaza Lanes in the North Hills, Legacy Lanes in Baldwin, Noble Manor Lanes in Greentree, Mt. Lebanon Lanes in Mt. Lebo and Nesbits' Lanes in Plum Boro.
Build a Lego Masterpiece
Everyone love to build with Legos, right? Thanks to Snapology, everyone has the chance to build their own Lego masterpiece each week during Lego Lab open play in their newly opened Discovery Center in the South Hills. Snapology offers classes, camps and workshops at both the South Hills Discovery Center or their Monroeville Mall location. Or you can simply visit the Discovery Center every weekend from 12-5 and play for just $5 per hour. It's a great way to spend a cold weekend afternoon.
There are several options for making and painting pottery in the Pittsburgh region. Color Me Mine in Squirrel Hill has been around for years and offers kids and adults to join together in the making of a masterpiece. Katie's Clay Studio on Route 8 in Gibsonia opened just a few years ago and also offers kids and adults the opportunity to paint a piece of pottery to take home.
Our personal favorite art studio in the area is Little House Big Art. We love it because you can not only paint pottery, but also make your own buttons, make shrinky dinks, paint wooden pets, picture frames, make melty bead masterpieces, make jewelry and paint a variety of other items. They also have supplies for just about every other art project you could imagine, and friendly staff to help inspire and guide you through your ideas. And everything is extremely reasonably priced, so you won't go broke making your masterpiece.
Little House Big Art is located on the North Side and is open Saturday 11-8 and Saturday 1-7.
Whatever option you choose, I wish you warm thoughts and safe travels.